Start-House-Cleaning-Business
 
|
|
|
|
 
Choosing Software for your House Cleaning Business
 
Your choice of scheduling, billing and CRM software to help you structure, manage and run your residential cleaning business is of critical importance. Like many other decisions you make during the start-up phase of your house cleaning business, your choice of software will continue to be with you as the years go by.
 
You are going to need some basic software, which every business uses. This is known in the software industry as “horizontal software”, meaning that it can be used for any business in any industry. I would recommend a program such as Microsoft Office, which includes Microsoft Word (for word processing) and Excel (for spreadsheets). Note that you can also purchase Microsoft Office Professional, which will include Microsoft Access (a database program) and PowerPoint (used for making slide presentations.) You won’t need Access unless you plan to be doing some simple database programming of your own. PowerPoint can be useful if you want to make slide show presentations, for prospective investors, to train office staff and/or cleaning staff, etc.
 
Note that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office these days. WordPerfect Corporation has excellent software, for example. Also, there is now a popular program called Open Office, which is available for free, and becoming more popular as time goes by.
 
The most important choice will be your choice of specialized software for your house cleaning business. (This is known as “vertical” software – it is created for businesses in a specific industry – such as house cleaning, home health care, exterminating, trucking, hairdressing, etc.)
 
There are a variety of companies that produce software specifically for the residential cleaning industry. Search in one of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) for terms such as:
 
Maid service software
Residential cleaning software
House cleaning software
 
One company you'll find in your searches for maid service software is Thoughtful Systems of New York, who have been producing software for the cleaning industry for over 21 years.
 
You’ll need to spend some time evaluating the various programs that claim to be suitable for your house cleaning business. Here are some points to consider:
1) How long has the company been in business?
A company that has been in the business of producing specialty software for your industry for a long time is more likely to still be around in a few years, when your business is growing, and the fast-paced computer industry continues to innovate and change. Will the software company that produces the software of your house cleaning business be around, and be offering an upgrade of their software for the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system?
 
2) Is the software user-friendly? Will it be easy to learn?
Will you have to attend time-consuming seminars (in person or on-line) in order to learn how to use the software? Or is it pretty intuitive, easy to learn, easy to become familiar with?
 
3) What kind of support do you get with your purchase?
There was a time in the computer software industry when various manufacturers offered free support for the life of the product. One of the most famous of these was the WordPerfect Corporation. At the time of the release of version 5 and version 5.1 of WordPerfect, you could call WordPerfect in Utah with any question concerning the use and configuration of the software. Support personnel were knowledgeable and friendly and spoke English well. If you were put on hold, you had the pleasure of listening to WordPerfect Radio, with a DJ spinning songs, and periodically informing you of the expected wait time before your call would be answered. Another notable company was Crystal Reports, which offered callers the choice between 5 different types of music – jazz, rock, classical, country or easy listening – while you waited on the phone for their excellent, knowledgeable support staff to answer your questions.
 
Nowadays, free support for life is a part of history. Whatever software you purchase, you can expect to pay something at some point for support. Software development companies charge a certain up front price for their software. If they didn’t have an ongoing stream of income from ongoing support contracts, they wouldn’t be able to pay their support personnel to provide answers to your questions and fix problems that may arise in the software. Most companies providing maid service software will offer some sort of free support with your initial purchase. Some offer limited support for a certain number of hours; some offer free support for an initial start-up period – one month, two months, three months, etc.
 
I am personally suspicious if a software company offers free support for life. No company can afford to provide reliable, professional support for any complex software system without receiving some sort of payment from time to time from its users.
 
People don’t expect to receive free service for life for their cars, their washing machines, their TV sets or any other piece of equipment. You should expect also to have to pay something for support. Just find out in advance what you should expect to pay, whether it will be month to month or year to year.
 
Find out what sort of issues will be covered by the support, whether it’s free or paid. Will the support contract include answering your questions about how to use the software (training), as well as questions concerning other issues concerning the software? Or is training and tuition considered separate, another service that you have to sign up for separately?
 
4) Is the company that offers the software a professional computer software company?
Or is it a maid service company that designed some software for itself, and then decided to try to market it to other companies in the same industry?
 
It might seem like a good idea to purchase software form another maid service company. They would know about what is needed for a maid service company, after all. Wouldn’t they?
 
Well, the answer to that is: Perhaps. My experience has shown me that no two house cleaning businesses are run the same way. Each one of the hundreds of businesses I have worked with has its own particular needs, problems and other differences.
 
If you purchase a software program that is designed by another maid service company, the software will be designed around that company’s way of doing business. This might not be yours. Look for a software program that can be adapted to your way of doing business. Don’t get trapped in the strait jacket of another person’s particular way of running their business.
 
5) Does the company providing the software offer customization services?
You may find that you need to have your invoice formats changes, or a new Work order (Job Ticket) designed, or have some other special need. Some companies will not modify their software for you at all, or otherwise will charge so much for customizations that it wouldn’t be worth it. Other companies have more reasonable prices for customizations.
 
6) Is there a guarantee with the software?
Some companies offer a return period – if you don’t like the software during your trail period, you can return the software for a full refund. Other companies don’t offer such free trial periods. Ask about it.
 
7) Last, but not least: What is the price of the software?
I have found that many people think about price first, when thinking about what software to choose for their house cleaning business. However, you can’t judge a software program solely on the initial purchase price. You need to think about the cost of the software to you over several years. Find out what your total costs will be for the first three or four years of your business.
 
Is there an additional charge for enhancements and updates?
Is there an additional charge for training?
What is the cost of annual support? (And is there a special charge you’ll have to pay to reinstate your support contract if you allow it to lapse for a month or two?)
 
Some companies have a starter version of their software that you can begin with. Then, as your residential cleaning business grows, you can update the software, and move to the next highest level of the software.
 
Good software will save you a lot of time in your business. Having the right software means you don’t have to re-write customer details each time you send your maids out. It also means you can save details concerning your customers’ likes and dislikes, thus allowing you to provide better service, and reduce the number of customers who cancel their service because their wishes are not being met.
 
Also, the right software for your house cleaning business will include time-saving features, such as mapping, which allows you to provide your cleaners with detailed directions of how to get to clients’ houses. This saves your workers time, and saves you money, as you’ll probably be paying them for travel time. Some companies also provide cars to employees.
 
 
At the same time, your software should include, at a minimum, the following modules:
Customer Information
Accounts Receivable
Job Scheduling
Payroll
 
Each of these modules saves you time, makes you more efficient, and allows you to provide better service for your customers. Without proper software, you or one of your employees will be spending several hours a week maintaining accounts, preparing invoices, managing complex job schedules, preparing payroll, and more. If you save only 10 hours a week (that’s 2 hours per day), you’ll be saving 520 hours a year. And if you pay your office employee only $10 per hour; that represents a potential saving of $5,000 per year – just in terms of time saved. Add to that the fact that with the right software you’ll have better customer retention! The value of that is impossible to estimate.
 
I have seen just one aspect of a program save a business owner many hours per week. For example, one maid service operator purchased a credit-card processing module, which integrates with their residential cleaning software program. Before using this feature, the owner’s husband was spending at least 10 hours a week running credit cards through a manual machine. After implementing the automated credit card module, he had to spend only a few minutes per night running through all the credit card charges for the day.
 
 
 
 
 
 
All contents of this site © Copyright 2008, Murray Gordon, Murray Gordon Consulting. All rights reserved.